IN CONVERSATION WITH ANDY ALLO
Andy Allo is a singer and actress that stars as ‘Nora’, the female lead in Amazon’s hit series ‘Upload’ that just returned with Season 2 on March 11. You can watch her as well on NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’ as a recurring star. Andy is also known for working with Prince’s New Power Generation as a singer and guitarist. She recently completed a short run-on tour with Enrique Iglesias and a solo residency in Los Angeles.
Andy, you have two loves and passions – music and acting. How did your career in both get started?
When I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to be a performer. I was always singing, I was always dancing, putting on plays and performances. But when I moved to America from Cameroon, when I was 13, that’s when I really knew if there’s ever a chance for me to make this happen, it’s now. As a kid growing up, I always heard and learned that America is the land of opportunity. If you have a dream, if there’s anything that you want, this is the place to make it happen and you can make it happen.
So, I just gradually started making music, meeting different people and slowly but surely put out my first album in 2009. And through that album I got connected with Prince and the music kind of took off first, even though I was acting still in little things here and there. After doing the musician thing for a couple years, I really missed acting and they’ve both been my loves. What’s been really amazing about my career so far is that I have the ability to kind of flow from one thing to another and it’s been really effortless. So if one thing isn’t keeping me busy or moving, then I can just focus on the other. It’s really organic that way, which is really nice.
You’ve worked with Prince’s New Power Generation as a singer and guitarist 2 years after you released your first album ‘UnFresh’. Among your work with Prince, you appeared in three songs on his 2014 album ‘Art Official Age’, singing co-lead and background vocals. How was it working with such an icon? What have you learned from working with Prince?
It’s funny because sometimes I think about that chapter of my life playing and touring, making music with Prince and I’m like “Was that real? Did that actually happen”? Because it’s so cool. Working with him, he had and still has such a standard for artistry. He embodied what it meant to live and breathe art. Every moment he was thinking of different lyrics or music or ideas or being creative. So for me, witnessing that and seeing somebody so passionate about creating art and being an artist, that was so inspiring. And he was always thinking about what’s the next thing he can make. That’s really exciting for me and that is what I can’t wait to share with the world. It was such a pure love of creating and that’s something I bring to everything I’m working on, just being excited that I get to create today and definitely always operating at a very high standard. There was never a moment where it’s like “Let’s just do whatever, who cares”. He would say to me, “If you’re gonna do something, make sure you’re doing your best, always put your best forward”. And that’s always stuck with me.
You recently had a solo residency in LA. How would you describe your music style?
I’ve played in different sandboxes as an artist, which has been great, to be free in that way. I’m working on a new album now that feels very me. It’s music that combines my Cameroonian roots and also being American and growing up in the States. I’m so excited about this new album, because it feels like it embodies all sides of who I am, my African and my American side.
Tell us more about what’s behind the story of your new album. When will we be able to hear it?
The story behind this new album is the hero’s journey. In our lives, we go through a lot of different things, especially if we’re aiming for certain goals or we’re trying to accomplish certain things and there are obstacles, there are things that aren’t going our way. And ultimately, sometimes when we achieve all those goals, it isn’t how we imagined it or it doesn’t feel as good as what we thought it might feel like. And this record is all about that journey, but also that no matter your accomplishments or how many goals you reach, at the end of the day what matters is your relationship with yourself. If you aren’t happy or okay with yourself, then it doesn’t matter how much you accomplish or how much money you have, or all the cool people or friends you have. It starts within.
We’ve had some delays because I’m filming right now. That’s the joy of doing multiple things, but my hope and plan is for the album to be out this year.
I must say, I am a huge fan of ‘Chicago franchise’. You were first introduced to viewers in Season 8 of ‘Chicago Fire’ as Lieutenant Wendy Seager, a badass arson investigator. How much of Seager will we be seeing in the upcoming episodes and next season?
Well, you haven’t seen the last of Seager. I’m in Chicago right now filming. I love this character, I love the cast and the crew. It’s a huge family and they have totally welcomed me, which feels really good. I feel like I’m part of the family. I don’t know where they’re going with my character. We’ll see what the writers have planned, but I think they’re planning some stuff. So you haven’t seen the last of me.
You’re the female lead, Nora, in Amazon Prime’s hit series ‘Upload’, which premiered Season 2 on March 11. How would you sum up the second season?
The second season starts right where season one ended, so not any time has passed, which I think is cool because season one ended on such a huge cliffhanger. And Nora had just told Nathan that she loved him and he didn’t say it back. She doesn’t know why, but she has to move on with her life. So in season two, she really tries to move on with her life and she does meet somebody new. I think this season for Nora is really about her learning her own power and stepping into a more leadership role and owning that, and also owning her voice. In season two, she really owns it, which was so fun to play.
What was it about ‘Upload’ that made you join the cast of the series?
First off, just seeing a show from Greg Daniels, someone who’s such a genius and legend in the entertainment industry and in the TV world especially, I was immediately like “I’m in”. But more than anything, it was the story. Greg really created characters that you care about and he’s so good also at love stories. When I read the pilot for ‘Upload’, Nora just felt like me. I felt so connected to her and I loved how this show has a bit of everything. It has comedy, drama, sci-fi, mystery, romance. It’s got all the things, but they all work together so effortlessly. And that’s exciting as an actor, to be able to play in different sandboxes. It reminds me very much of my own music and my work as an artist is that I’m able to play in different genres and areas and they all work together seamlessly.
You were actually born in Cameroon as the youngest of five siblings. How was it moving to the States in your teen years to a completely different environment and changing your life?
That was huge and honestly, I didn’t want to move. As a teenager, I didn’t wanna leave my friends. I had a plan for my life. I was going to boarding school and I was really excited about that with my best friend. Moving to the States I had to learn different cultural things, even how the date is written and learning the more American accent. Sometimes I’ll switch back to my Cameroonian accent when I’m around family and stuff like that. But as a teen, really wanting to fit in, it’s like I’ll do whatever it takes to fit in. I think that experience really shaped me in my work, especially as an actor, to be able to pick up different things and be almost like a chameleon. I’m able to really dive into a character because as a kid I learned how to be okay. I grew up one way and was then like “Wait, this is different. Let me figure it out”. It really taught me how to be more observant and gave me a different perspective that really serves me in my work.
But would you say this transition to American life was hard? Or was it something that was easy?
I think it’s both, I think there’s areas where it’s easy because it’s the US. I think there’s so much stuff that’s easier here. I get to be an artist and I think in different parts of the world that’s a little harder. And whereas it’s hard here, one of the main things that really hit me was that we’re so spread apart. Growing up in Cameroon, everybody lives so close. I know there’s obviously some exceptions to this, but growing up we always had family around. Your family was coming to your house, they would just come in whether you wanted them there or not.
When I moved to the States, it was so different. There wasn’t that community where you felt like there was a tribe there. And I think I missed that. My siblings moved to all different places, my parents live in two different places. So if I have to visit someone, I’m having to do a whole bunch of traveling as opposed to we’re really tight and close knit and everyone’s close together.
You’re also a proud Novus Global coach and the creator of the Foundations of Focus. What made you start this and what are your workshops all about?
After season one I had achieved one of the biggest goals as an actor, which was leading a show, becoming a series regular. And I started to feel a little lost and not sure what I was gonna do after that. My whole vision was that I need to just be on a TV show. And so I started receiving coaching myself. Through that, I started to realize I really have a love for helping people. I know that with my experience and the challenges that I’ve overcome if I can help someone if I can inspire them, if I can give them some insight that allows them to now achieve whatever their dream is, it’s so fulfilling. It’s one thing to achieve all your goals, but it’s another thing to watch other people.
When I started coaching myself, that meant everything. It made me realize that’s what it’s about, that’s why I’m working so hard and that I don’t wanna be at the mountain top by myself because that’s super lonely. I wanna be surrounded by people who are just as excited and just as passionate about their lives and what they wanna do. When I created Foundations of Focus and started to coach people and they started achieving things, I was like “Oh my gosh, this is so fun”. And that led to working with Novus Global and they were so supportive about my journey and then I took different courses to become a certified life coach. It’s all part of the journey. Receiving coaching and coaching others has really helped me in my work as an actor and as a musician and helped me realize that it’s not about me. When it’s about other people, that means even more.
There is something to the saying of you can’t help from an empty cup. If you are not okay, how can you help somebody else. It’s important to take care of yourself, to make sure you’re good, but also having the awareness that it doesn’t stop there. You know, it’s like that image of when you’re climbing a ladder and when you hit a certain level, then you pull up the person who is behind you. It’s all about being “Hey, come on up too” as opposed to like “No, this is my ladder”. If everyone helped one other person to achieve their goals, I think the world be a different place.
Where will we be able to see you next on our screens, besides of course on ‘Upload’ and ‘Chicago Fire’? Are there as well any new projects that you’ll be writing or directing?
Something that I’ve really been excited about and I’m passionate about exploring is my writing and directing. Last year I wrote and directed a short film that’s being submitted to festivals right now, so fingers crossed it gets accepted to some of them. And I’m hoping to direct an episode of television this year. It’s been really fun to be on the other side of the camera and see the different aspects that a director does. It’s a lot of work. I got to shadow and follow one of the directors on ‘Upload’ in season two and just watching all the decisions that have to be made, the vision, the weeks of preparation before you even show up on set, it blew my mind and it gave me a deeper and greater appreciation for a director. And also for everybody who plays a part in creating a TV show and appreciation for the role that I play in it. Even though that’s who you see on TV, there’s so many people that it takes to make a television show that my role is literally so tiny. That’s what you watch, but behind the scenes it takes hundreds, thousands of people putting in really hard hours to create this thing. As a director I love that and I think it’d be really exciting. I’m excited to explore that. And as part of my journey as an artist, I think that’s the next thing for me.
Talent – Andy Allo @andyallo
Photographer – Sharimar Cruz @sycroix
Assistant – Kwami Lee @kwamilee
Stylist – Gloria Johnson @styledbyglo_2
Assistant – Aaliyah Day
Mua – A. love @alovethepro
Mua Assist – Ze Santiago
Hair – Ro Morgan @hairbyromorgan
Production – Tunnel Production @tunnel_production
Executive producer – Danielle Hawkins @daniellehstyles
Senior producer – Janine Hernandez @janine_h1313
Editor – Timotej Letonja @timiletonja
Special thanks to @kid.digital @angiegogo @platformprteam @uploadonprime @primevideo
INTERVIEW BY JANA LETONJA @janaletonja